TOTOS SEEP Grant EE/ESE Program Descriptions

Sustainability and Environmental Education for Pre-Service (SEEP)

Information needed

Information to share

Name(s) of instructor(s)

Amy Ryken, Associate Professor, School of Education

Christine Kline, Dean and Professor of Literacy, School of Education

Name of university

University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington

Level of preparation for the program being described: elementary, middle school, high school (or combination)


University course number

EDUC 616

University course title

Elementary Curriculum and Instruction

University course catalogue description

This course comprises modules which serve to fulfill the elementary endorsement essential areas of study including reading and language, math, science, art, music, physical education, health, and social studies. It is required that students have content knowledge in these areas from their undergraduate preparation. These modules look at curricular structure and instructional methods in each of these fields. Assessing students' skill levels and evaluating effectiveness of instruction is also covered. This course includes a practicum of 10 hours a week in a local school.


(big ideas are fine)

Using Wiggins and McTighe’s backward design framework, explicit attention is given to the phases of planning involved in the development of an inquiry unit.

--The first phase involves exploring themes; seeking connections among standards, school curricula, and student needs; selecting of resources; and developing significant understandings.

--The second phase involves attention to the actual planning for student experiences guided by the enduring understanding and the learners’ needs, as well as creating assessments (formative and summative), that will reveal student understanding, skill, and learning awareness.

See the model for unit development (Attachment A).

Description of the experience(s) the pre-service teachers had to learn EE-ESE strategies

(This is the main, detailed description)

Integrated Inquiry Units

Elementary Pre-service teachers create an integrated inquiry unit focused on sustainability and share their findings by presenting an exhibit of an integrated unit which addresses the society-natural environment-sustainability framework. Andres R. Edwards’ (The Sustainability Revolution, 2005, New Society Publishers) highlights the following big ideas as important to considerations of sustainability:

--Concern for the environment, the economy and social equity;

--Identification of our dependence on health of natural systems (clean air, clean water, healthy soils and forests, biodiversity) for our survival and well-being;

--Acknowledgement of the limits of the Earth’s ecosystems and the detrimental impact of unchecked human activities (population, pollution, economic growth);

--And an intergenerational perspective on actions and goals.

Two principles focus the unit design:

--All students are prepared to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society (Standard 5.3.D).

--All students learn subject matter content that integrates mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic reasoning (Standard 5.1.C).

Two science class sessions and seven co-taught class sessions throughout the semester support students in the development of their inquiry units.

Session 1: Descriptive Field Investigation. Observing and describing a wooded space. See for lesson description.

Session 2: Comparative Field Investigation. Comparing surface temperatures on the grass, under bushes, on the blacktop. See for lesson description.

Session 3: Field Investigation in Wright Park. Students observe and document the range of human activity in the park and within the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory.

Session 4: Unit Planning Workshop. After introducing the sustainability frameworks described above, students free write about areas that hold interest for them, describe why these areas are significant areas of study, and examine how the area of study is described in the GLE’s.

Session 5: Students share two areas and the resources they have gathered with a partner and identify the skills or processes they need to teach and consistently reinforce to support student success.

Session 6: Guest speakers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife share a framework for unit planning and engage students in lesson experiences from the Project Wild and Project Learning Tree curriculum guides.

Session 7: Students work in small groups sharing and refining ideas.

Session 8: Students work in small groups sharing and refining ideas.

Session 9: Students present a poster exhibit observed by all and then read in depth by two colleagues.

Student project addressed topics such as: Sustaining Earth’s Ecosystems, Multiculturalism, Ants, Exploring Mt. Rainier, Recycling, Child Labor, Endangered Species, and Waste. See Attachment B for samples of Student Work

Materials/equipment needed for the pre-service teacher experience (include technology that may have been used)

See session descriptions above.

Were preK-12 children involved? (Yes or no). If yes, describe their involvement and ages.


Was this an indoor or outdoor project (or both)?

Describe the setting.

Indoor, with a few outdoor sessions.

Were other subject area professors involved? Yes or no. If yes, what subjects were integrated? How?

This project is a result of collaboration between an elementary literacy/social studies teacher educator and an elementary math/science teacher educator.

Amy Ryken, Associate Professor, School of Education

Christine Kline, Dean and Professor of Literacy, School of Education

Were there community/ agency/institution partners? Yes or no. If yes, how was the partnership structured?

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, Wright Park, Tacoma, WA

Department of Fish and Wildlife

How was the program evaluated? What did the pre-service teachers have to say?

The two instructors each read each exhibit and accompanying reflection, next discussing both their own assessment and patterns revealed in the rubric categories (Attachment C). In addition, pre-service teachers self-assess their unit plan and share reflections on the benefits of the experience for themselves and their students:

“I’ve learned a great deal from designing this unit. I had a hard time not constantly making changes to my unit. I finally had to come to the conclusion that as a teacher you are always thinking and adjusting things. I know that as a teacher I will constantly be making adjustments to all my lessons.”

“I now think about learning in larger units instead of bits of knowledge--life and its issues are not naturally divided into school subjects.”



If another grant was written to support your EE-ESE work, what types of things would you hope to accomplish?

As we reflect on our teaching experience and assess the work of our students in inquiry unit planning, we continually learn that, while fruitful, it is difficult, and often counterintuitive, for a novice teacher to plan and assess using the backward design framework. In addition, emphasizing curriculum integration and sustainability in a policy context that situates disciplines as distinct and separate areas of study creates challenges. We would want to continue to explore how to frame and meaningfully assess sustainability and environmental education which is also developmentally appropriate for pre-service teachers.

Integrated Inquiry Unit

ED616 Fall 2008

Exploration Phase

Selection of Resources

Significant Understandings

Entry Experience

Inquiry Session 1

Inquiry Session 2

Inquiry Session 3

  • What will I teach (show, model, demonstrate?)
  • How will the students gather, discuss and represent their data?
  • How will I assess their understandings and skill?
  • What will I teach (show, model, demonstrate?)
  • How will the students gather, discuss and represent their data?
  • How will I assess their understandings and skill?
  • What will I teach (show, model, demonstrate?)
  • How will the students gather, discuss and represent their data?
  • How will I assess their understandings and skill?

Presenting, Responding, Celebration


Unit Plan Rubric—Fall 2008

Enduring Understandings (Learning Targets)

Instructional Design

Inclusive Orientation

Exceeds Criteria

See meets criteria below. In addition, enduring understandings have lasting value, within and beyond the subject.

See meets criteria below. In addition, activities are exceptionally coherent, moving seamlessly from one to another. Design effectively scaffolds student engagement, knowledge, skill, and thinking.

See meets criteria below. In addition, uses community and/or cultural context in integrated and inventive ways to address a range of learning needs.

Meets Criteria

Enduring understandings are central to the theme or subject, aligned with learning targets and curriculum standards and reflect both content knowledge and learning processes appropriate to student needs.

Learning activities are connected to unit questions and learning targets. Attention is paid to student engagement and scaffolding student thinking using a variety of modes and representations.

Includes at least one strategy which accounts for community and/or cultural contexts. Includes an explicit adjustment(s) to the unique characteristics or learning needs of at least one student.

Needs Improvement

Enduring understandings are peripheral to the theme or subject, or they are not aligned with learning targets and curriculum standards. Enduring understandings fail to reflect content knowledge and/or learning processes appropriate to student needs.

Unit questions and learning activities are present but do not fully serve learning targets and are limited in modes or representations. Student engagement is assumed or unaddressed.

Strategies narrowly address community and/or cultural contexts. Adjustments are limited or non-existent.